The Second Bakery Attack

Earl
Jackson, Jr.

Postmodern
Japan

Spring 1999

University of California,
Santa Cruz


 

 

Reading Murakami
Haruki

Earl Jackson, Jr.

Encounter One: „The Second
Bakery Attack“

„The Second Bakery Attack“ trans. Jay Rubin. in
Murakami
Haruki
, The Elephant Vanishes . Trans. Alfred Birnbaum and Jay
Rubin. (New York: Vintage, 1994) 35-49


 

 

Situation:

A young, urban newly-wed couple awaken simultaneously
in the middle of the night with a tremendous hunger. There is no food in
the refrigerator, so the couple drink the beer there. The husband, without
meaning to, tells his wife about an incident in his younger days, when
he and a close friend attempted to rob a bakery for bread [39].
The owner of the bakery made them a deal: they could take as much bread
as they liked if they would first listen to his album of Richard
Wagner’s
a
overtures all the way through (the
overtures to Tannhäuser

and
The Flying Dutchman.). They complied,
and this compliance changed their character. The effect of this deal, the
husband referred to as a “ curse,“
but his elaboration of this effect was his transformation from a alienated
teenager type to a conventionally productive member of society. His change
in behavior led to his college career, his profession, and to his meeting
his wife and marriage to her [40-41].

„All he wanted from us was to listen to his Wagner LP
from beginning to end. . . . It was like the baker put a curse on us. .
. . [W]e should have refused. . . . Then there
wouldnít have been any problem.“

„. . . [T]hings started to
change after that. It was kind of a turning point. Like, I went back to
the university, I graduated, and I started working for the firm and studying
for the bar exam, and I met you and got married. I never did anything like
that again. No more bakery attacks.“

[41].

The wife insists their shared inexplicable hunger is the
curse working on both of them now. She proposes that they attack another
bakery in order to break the curse [42 -43]

They search for an all-night bakery. But settle on robbing
a Macdonalds. Order 30 big macs, eat most of them in a park. Their hunger
vanishes as dawn is breaking. The wife declares the curse broken, and falls
asleep leaning against her husband.


 

 

The Recurrent
Image: The Undersea Volcano.

 

Events
in the narrative


[Earl’s
synopses in white]
The
status of the Volcano Image


[Excerpts
from  the text in aquamarine]
Narrator
realizes that this hunger is a special kind of hunger, „not one that could
be satisfied through the mere expedient of taking it to an all-night restaurant
on the highway.
[37-38]
A
special kind of hunger.
. . .

I can present it here in the form
of a cinematic image.

One, I am in a little boat, floating
on a quiet sea. Two, I look down, and in the water I see the peak of a
volcano
thrusting up from the ocean floor. Three, the peak seems
pretty close to the waterís surface, but just how close I cannot tell.
Four, this is because the hypertransparency of the water interferes with
the perception of distance.
[38]


.
.  .  .. Not being Sigmund
Freud,
I was of course, unable to analyze with any precision what this
image
signified
,, but I knew intuitively that it was a revelation.
[38]

   
The
couple continue to search for food. As the narrator drinks a beer, his
wife exclaims that she has „never been this hungry“ in her entire life
and wonders aloud, „if it has anything to do with
[their]
marriage.“
[33-39]
While
she hunted for more fragments of food, I leaned over the edge of my boat
and looked down at the peak of the underwater volcano. The clarity of the
ocean water all around the boat gave me an unsettled feeling, as if a hollow
had opened somewhere behind my solar plexus – a hermetically sealed cavern
that had neither entrance nor exit. Something about this weird sense of
absence – this sense of the existential reality of non-existence – resembled
the paralyzing fear you might feel when you climb to the very top of a
high steeple. This connection between
hunger and acrophobia
was a new discovery for me.
[39]

 

 Which
is when it occured to me that I had once before had this same kind of experience.
. . . „The Time of the Bakery attack,“ I heard myself saying.“
[39]
– Prompts the wife to insist on hearing the whole story
 
   
The wife concludes
that the hunger is part of the bakerís curse. At this,

the narratorís „feeling of starvation“ returned „stronger
than ever.“ [42-43]

I
took another look at my undersea volcano. The water was even clearer than
before – much clearer. Unelss you looked closely, you might not even notice
it was there. It felt as though the boat were floating in midair, with
absolutely nothing to support it. I could see every pebble on the bottom.
All I had to do was reach out and touch them.
[43]
After the robbery,
the couple eat the burgers in a parking lot as dawn broke and the hunger
vanished. He asks her if it had been necessary. She insists „Of course
it was,“ and falls asleep on his shoulder. [48-49]
Alone
now, I leaned over the edge of my boat and looked down at the bottom of
the sea. The volcano was gone. The waterís calm surface reflected the blue
of the sky. Little waves – like silk pajamas fluttering in a breeze – lapped
against the side of the boat. There was nothing else. 

I stretched out in the bottom
of the boat and closed my eyes, waiting for the rising tide to carry me
where I belonged.

[49]

To another way of reading.

And another, Jessica Donahue’s „Daydreaming
in Greek

How to teach

How to teach reading

How
to read teaching [part one]

How
to read teaching [part two]

How
to say „Nephropathy“ in Bulgarian [how to do research using the Internet]

How
to write [Ian Curtis’s suicide note]

How
to tell
what the name of
desire
is called.

Metawebliography on Japanese
Research Resources

Earl
Jackson, Jr.’s
working categorized list of specialized
glossaries
on the Internet.

To Virtual Forum

To Syllabus Postmodern Japan

To Response One

To Comparative
Wonderings

To Other Trouble
Shooting

To Fantasy
Campus

To Another
Scene